Socialist Worker

Mapping their lies

by Mac McKenna
Issue No. 1773

The war in Afghanistan has produced a torrent of maps in the media. The British Library's current free exhibition couldn't be better timed. Under the brilliant punning title 'The Lie of the Land', it shows how the rich and our rulers have used maps.

In an era where jargon like 'collateral damage' is all the rage, see the British government's map of Dresden from December 1943. It highlights residential areas. The map's original instructions read, 'Tenement buildings in the inner residential zone may be burnt out under heavy incendiary bomb attack. The effect of high explosive is not hard to imagine.'

But the exhibition is about class as well. Have a laugh at the map produced by Charles Booth in 1889, seeking to refute socialist claims that a quarter of the population lived in poverty. Booth lists residential areas of London by their affluence or otherwise, broken down into seven categories, including the charming 'semi-criminal'.

However, his conclusion was that a third of people lived in poverty. And there are the maps the government sought to keep secret. While the trade unions made absolutely no preparations between Red Friday in 1925 and the outbreak of the General Strike a year later, the government drew up extensive contingency plans.

Visit the exhibition-and see the world from a different angle.

'The Lie of the Land', British Library, Euston Road, London NW1, until 7 April 2002. Free-phone 020 7412 7332 or go to

A special evening of theatre in aid of the Stop the war coalition


A production without decor directed by Nina Raine, with the company from the original Royal Court production directed by Stephen Daldry, featuring Linda Bassett, Katherine Tozer, Kevin McKidd and Annabelle Seymour-Julen. Sound design by Paul Arditti


KIKA MARKHAM reads from TONY KUSHNER'S new play reflecting on Afghanistan HOMEBODY/KABUL

SUNDAY 4 NOVEMBER, 7.30pm ROYAL COURT THEATRE Sloane Square (Sloane Square tube) Tickets £10 from 020 7791 3297

Stop the War Coalition, PO Box 3739, London E5 8EJ Email [email protected]

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Article information

Sat 3 Nov 2001, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1773
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